Friday, 8 April 2011

Cakes and Cookies from the Grande Dame of Desserts - Maida Heatter!

Kansas City Chocolate Dream
Yes, that is chocolate glistening all seductively on that plate. Intrigued?

Maida Heatter has enjoyed a long and delicious career as the Queen of Desserts. She was one of the first to be inducted into the chocolate hall of fame, has written numerous bestselling dessert books, and is a member of the James Beard Hall of Fame. She's still going strong and baking up a storm, and she has two wonderful new books out for us: Maida Heatter's Cakes, and Maida Heatter's Cookies. This is going to get yummy!

Maida Heatter’s Cakes
by Maida Heatter
Softcover, 368 pages

Now available in paperback, Maida Heatter's Cakes is a compilation of 175 favourite cakes from her long and delicious career. Both her own favourites and the favourites of her fans world-wide, this is a definitive cake collection for your dessert library.

The chapters include:
An introduction on how Maida Heatter started writing cookbooks
Cake-Making Basics
Chocolate Cakes
Layer Cakes
Fancy Cakes
Cheesecakes
Fruitcakes and Nut Cakes
Cakes with Fruits or Vegetables
Yeast Cakes
Sweet Breads
Muffins, Cupcakes, and Tassies
Gingerbreads
Ice Cream, Sauces, and More

A lifetime of cakes to choose from!
In our KitchenPuppy test kitchen, we made her Kansas City Chocolate Dream. Simple to make and almost miraculous in its presentation. The sauce is poured on top of the batter, and works its way to the bottom while baking. Flip it out and you have a deep, dark, delicious and saucy chocolate cake. We found it to be outstanding with strawberries, but vanilla ice cream would be wonderful too. Try it yourself!
Kansas City Chocolate Dream
Kansas City Chocolate Dream
From Maida Heatter’s Cakes

Cake
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
²⁄3 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ounce (¼ stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup walnuts, broken into medium-size pieces

Topping
¹⁄3 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
½ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons granular instant coffee
1 cup water

Kansas City Chocolate Dream
Variations of this recipe pop up in many areas of the country under many different names: Chocolate Upside-Down Cake, Chocolate Sauce Pudding, Chocolate Pudding Cake, Hot Fudge Sauce Cake, to name a few. In most cases, whatever the name, you will have a square pan of chocolate cake floating in a rather thin, dark chocolate syrup; both the cake and the syrup are spooned out together and served like a pudding with a sauce.

This Missouri recipe is similar, but is something else. It is a small, shallow square upside-down cake which, when it is turned onto a cake plate, covers itself with a thick layer of dark chocolate topping that resembles nothing I can think of. The topping is as dark and shiny as black patent leather, as tender and semi-firm as a pot de crème, and as mocha-chocolate flavored as you might weave dreams about.

The topping and the cake are baked together. Sensationally quick/easy/foolproof. This is wonderful just as soon as it has barely cooled, or it can wait hours, or it can be frozen.

Cake

Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a shallow 8-inch square cake pan and set aside.

Sift together into the small bowl of an electric mixer the flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa, and sugar. Add the milk, vanilla, and melted butter, and beat until smooth and slightly pale in color. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Stir in the nuts. Turn into the buttered pan and smooth the top. Let stand.

Topping

In a small, heavy saucepan combine all the ingredients. Stir over rather high heat until the sugars melt and the mixture comes to a full boil.

Gently ladle the boiling hot mixture all over the cake batter.

Bake for 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted gently into the cake comes out clean. (During baking the topping will sink to the bottom.) Set aside to cool in the pan.

When the cake has cooled, cover with a square or oblong serving plate or a cutting board. Holding them firmly together, turn the pan and the plate over. If the cake does not slide out of the pan easily (and it probably will not), hold the plate and the pan firmly together upside down and tap them on the work surface. Now the cake will come out, and it will be covered with the topping, some of which will still be in the pan; use a rubber spatula to remove it all and put it on the cake. Smooth the top gently or pull the topping up into uneven peaks.

Serve immediately or let stand all day or freeze. (If you freeze this do not cover with plastic wrap; the topping never does freeze hard and plastic wrap will stick to it. Just cover the whole thing with an inverted box deep enough so it doesn’t touch the cake.) Freezing diminishes the flavor of all foods, especially this. Although this can be served frozen, it has more flavor if it is brought to room temperature.

This cake does not need a thing but a plate and fork. However, if you are serving it for a birthday party or some other festivity, ice cream is wonderful with it.

Maida Heatter's Cookies
by Maida Heatter
Softcover, 320 pages

In Maida Heatter's Cookies, Maida offers 225 classic cookies and accompaniments to delight your friends and family. Foreworded by Wolfgang Puck, he refers to her as "The fairy godmother of anything sweet, spicy, crunchy, chewy, or fluffy that you could possibly imagine baking". Maida is as much known for her precision as her imagination, and we are the beneficiaries of a lifetime of perfecting delicious desserts. In this case - Cookies!

The chapters include:
Cookie Basics
Chocolate Drop Cookies
More Drop Cookies
Bar Cookies
Icebox Cookies
Rolled Cookies
Hand-Formed Cookies
And More
Crackers and Extras

Are you ready to get your cookie on?
In our KitchenPuppy test kitchen, we whipped up her Petites Trianons, a wonderfully soft bar cookie that is half-way to being a brownie. I love how precise Maida's directions are, the texture of the cookies turned out just perfect. They were are huge hit in our house. Make some this weekend!
Petites Trianons
Petites Trianons
From Maida Heatter’s Cookies
16 Squares or 12 to 14 Bars

This is a French recipe for small, plain, fudge squares, similar to brownies without nuts. These are quick and easy to make; they are mixed in a saucepan.

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch slices
2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 extra-large or jumbo eggs
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 350°. Prepare an 8-inch square cake pan as follows: Turn pan upside down. Cut a 12-inch square of aluminum foil. Center it over the inverted pan shiny side down. Fold down the sides and the corners and then remove the foil and turn the pan right side up. Place the foil in the pan. In order not to tear the foil use a pot holder or a folded towel and, pressing gently with the pot holder or towel, smooth the foil into place. Lightly butter the bottom and halfway up the sides, using soft or melted butter and a pastry brush or crumpled wax paper. Set aside.

Place the butter and chocolate in a heavy 2- to 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool for about 3 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, stirring until smooth.
Gently stir in flour/salt mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake for exactly 28 minutes. Do not overbake; this should remain moist in the center. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

Cover with a rack and invert. Remove the pan and aluminum foil. The bottom of the cake will be slightly moist in the center. Cover with another rack and invert again to cool right side up. (The cake will be about ¾ inch thick.)

When the cake is cool, transfer it to a cutting board. With a long, thin, sharp knife, cut the cake into squares or oblongs.

These may be arranged on a tray and covered with plastic wrap until serving time. Or they may be wrapped individually in clear cellophane or wax paper. Either way, do not allow them to dry out. They may be frozen and may be served either at room temperature or about 5 minutes after being removed from the freezer—they’re awfully good still frozen.

Petites Trianons